Violence among adolescent couples, known as dating violence, is defined as the perpetration of physical, psychological and/or sexual violence of one adolescent member of an intimate relationship on the other (Health Canada, 1995). This is an area of research that is relatively recent and seems to emerge in parallel with changes observed in the epidemiological profile of intimate partner violence in recent years.
Intimate partner violence and gender violence usually come about gradually. In many cases it doesn’t appear until a couple begins living together (González & Santana, 2001). Rubio-Garay, Carrasco, Amor and López-González (2015) classified promoting and inhibiting factors of couple violence as (inter)personal and situational. The former includes hostile attributes, attitudes and beliefs. These favor the use of violence and also have sexist aspects. It is for this reason that machismo is considered a key aspect to consider in terms of couple violence and gender violence.
Machismo is characterized by a series of beliefs that give way to attitudes and behaviors that are directly related to ideas of the superiority of men in areas considered important for men (Ramírez, Robayo, Cedeño & Riaño, 2017). This machismo is defined, in part, by the sociocultural construction of hegemonic masculinity.
Hegemonic masculinity is that which gives way to a social division between men and women that, at the same time, generates inequalities and is integrated into the structure of society (Schongut, 2012). It is characterized by certain characteristics or “traits” associated with the gender one belongs to.
This masculinity requires that men have identities and roles associated with force, risk, independence and courage, among others. For women, the characteristics are those related to passivity, weakness, caretaking of others, self-care, etc. (Garzón, 2015).
Education based on this type of masculinity and femininity includes the construction of norms about what it means to “be a man” or “be a woman”. This gives way to machista attitudes and gender inequality, and in the worst cases results in perpetration and victimization in situations of gender violence.
Experiencing gender and/or intimate partner violence in adolescence can have long-term effects and increase the risk of alcoholism, depression, suicidal ideation and greater victimization in young adulthood (Exner-Cortens, Eckenrode & Rothman, 2013). It doesn’t impact only physical health, but also mental health (Taylor, Stein & Burden, 2010).
Given its great impact on health, it is necessary to approach intimate partner violence from an educational perspective, based on equality and the promotion of healthy and positive relationships. Interventions carried out with adolescents have as a central objective to change attitudes that justify violence, to promote social skills and to support communication and conflict resolution. Thus, they also provide knowledge of the resources that exist and that are available to victims of this type of violence (Macgowan, 1997; Avery-Leaf, Cascardi, O’Leary, & Cano, 1997; Foshee et al., 1996, 1998, 2000; Wekerle & Wolfe (1999); Florsheim, McArthur, Hudak, Heavin & Burrow-Sánchez, 2011; Foubert, 2000; Gidycz et al., 2001; Jaycox et al., 2006; Kuffel & Katz, 2002; Miller, 1999; Miller et al., 2012; Pacifici, Stoolmiller & Nelson, 2001; Wolfe et al., 2003; Wolfe et al., 2009; Hernando, 2007).
These issues that are addressed in intervention programs are those that are most effective in reducing machismo and sexist attitudes and thus in reducing both gender violence and intimate partner violence among adolescents.
Taking these issues into account in carrying out an intervention can support both reducing this type of violence as well as other types of violence, given that it promotes health interpersonal relationships. Therefore, it is necessary to approach these interventions from more positive perspective that helps promote and strengthen the skills that allow adolescents to overcome this type of violence.
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